While we may not be spreading our wings too far this winter, there’s much to see right outside our doors. If you haven’t treated yourself to winter’s drive through our National Parks, you’re missing out. And Lake Louise ice skating is definitely an activity for the bucket list!

Lake_Louise_Ice_Skating

There’s not many places in the world where you can skate through an ice castle. (Credit: Gerard Yunker/Travel Alberta)

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Lake Louise ice skating

If you live in Alberta, you’re lucky enough to have world renowned skiing, skating and mountains right at your fingertips. Lake Louise ice skating is something tourist fantasize about, so why not take advantage? Here’s a look at everything you need to know before heading out.

Both the ice castle and the skating surface will be open to one and all December 15, 2020.

wild ice skating lake louise

You won’t find a more magical setting to learn how to ice skate!

Skating at Lake Louise

Skating at Lake Louise is the stuff dreams are made of. Thought there’s quite a few places to skate in the area (Carrot Creek near Banff is pretty cool), none hold a candle to gliding across Lake Louise. Situated on the grounds of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, this stunning frozen lake was voted one of the 10 most beautiful ice-skating rinks in the world.

The lake is cleared by a Zamboni, making it super smooth, which is ideal for new skaters and relished by experienced ones. You won’t get ice this smooth at other mountain lakes, that’s for sure. Even better, you’re skating on real ice, not the flooded surfaces often found in hockey arenas or a community skating rink. 

If you’re wanting to play hockey, check out the additional rink (also on the lake) for hockey players. It’s great for a pickup game of shinny and won’t get in the way of people just coming out to skate.

wild ice hockey

It doesn’t get more Canadian than this!(Credit: Noel Hendricks)

Lake Louise skate rental

If you don’t own your own skates, don’t worry! You can go direct to Lake Louise and score your skate rental there. Head to Alpine Social located in the lower lobby of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for your rentals.

  • Regular Skates: $23 for 4-hours, $33 for 8-hours
  • Junior Skates: $13 for 4-hours, $23 for 8-hours
  • Hockey sticks: $6 for 8 hours
  • Helmet: $11 for 8 hours

If you’re on your way in from the village of Lake Louise, try Wilson Mountain Sports.

  • Skates: $12 per day
  • Sticks: $6 per day

If you’re coming from Banff, check out Banff Adventures for skates, helmets and hockey skates (or any other winter gear you might need)

  • Skates: $15 per day
  • Helmet: $7 per day
  • Sticks: $5 per day

Calgary and Edmonton also have lots of equipment rentals if you’re coming from the city.

If you don’t have warm weather clothing, be sure to rent some or purchase some before you go!.Even if the weather is relatively warm, it’ll be windy on the lake. You’ll definitely want toques, gloves and even a scarf, buff or neck warmer.

lacing up skates outdoors

Lacing up is usually the coldest part. Pack some HotShots warmers! (Credit: Jake Dyson)

Lake Louise skating hours

You can skate all day, but the rink is lit by flood lights only until 11pm. While it’s tranquil and oh-so magical skating at night, when the sun goes down, it gets quite chilly.

The sun sets early in the mountains in winter, so if you want to skate during daylight, plan to skate between 8 am and 4:30 pm. Shortly after 5pm it gets pitch black in the Rockies.

Though by February, you’ll notice the days getting longer and the ice is usually stable until the end of March.

Banff Snow Days Festival

Darkness falls early in the Northern Hemisphere and even earlier in the mountains. (Credit: Shannon Martin)

Ice Magic Festival

Aside from skating in the mountains, one of the coolest parts about hanging in Lake Louise are all the ice sculptures and the ice castle. The life-size ice castle is around all winter long. You can skate can skate through its door and pretend you’re living like Elsa from the movie Frozen. This is during a typical year, but sadly, the organizers of the 2021 Ice Magic Festival have made the difficult decision to cancel the event.  

Each January (except in 2021), the Ice Magic Festival brings the world’s best ice carvers to town. Competitors have 48 hours to build beautiful sculptures out of 300-pound blocks of ice. You won’t believe that those giant bricks can make such beautiful and dainty sculptures.

It’s pretty interesting watching the competitors work, but don’t worry if you can’t make it during the festival. Throughout the winter, all of the ice sculptures are on display around the lake and in the town itself. Even if you aren’t going for a skate, it’s worth wandering through this outdoor, public art display. And is something to look forward to in 2022. 

*Note the 2021 Ice Magic Festival has been cancelled. The festival is expected to return to the Fairmont grounds in 2022.
ice magic festival lake louise

Watching the artists at work is entertainment itself. (Credit: Devaan Ingraham)

Where to eat nearby

Once you’ve finished your outdoor adventures, you can pop inside the Chateau for a quick bite or a sit-down meal. The Guides Pantry (formerly Chateau Deli) is a great place to grab a hot chocolate and a quick snack. There are more formal a la carte options too, and their afternoon tea is always worth the calories.

*Note: Due to COVID-19, restrictions restaurants may not be open to the general public. Check in advance.

A short drive away from the lake, you’ll find even more dining options. Check out our post on the best places to eat in Lake Louise. (Restaurants may only be open for take-away service depending on current COVID-19 restrictions.)

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Restaurants

Lakeview Lounge is casual, yet upscale. (Credit: Noel Hendrickson)

Stay overnight

For a splurge-worth stay, you can’t beat the convenience of staying at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Try to snag a room overlooking the lake and you’ll breathe a deep sigh of contentment every time you look out your window.

lake louise hotels

A little luxury never hurt anyone…

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Extra info

If you’re staying at the Fairmont, all you have to do is walk outside and you’ll be right at the lake. If you aren’t staying at the Chateau, you’ll have to park in the outdoor lot and walk up to the lake. Because you’re in Banff National Park, you’ll need your park pass displayed at all times.

You can lace up your skates at one of the many benches located around the lake. Most years, there are plenty of places to keep warm while you’re skating, including the fire pits dotted around the lake – though with COVID, they may not be able to depending on current restrictions. Sometimes they even have sticks and marshmallows on hand for roasting. 

Ice Bar Lake Louise

Score major points for taking your sweetheart to the ice bar for a winter date. (Credit: Jason Stang)

You can ward off winter’s chill with a drink at the ice bar. This licensed bar made entirely out of ice is run by the Fairmont and is situated steps away from the lake.

Note: The ice bar is slated to open January 18, 2021.

You can grab both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including coffee and hot chocolate. Yes, kids are welcome! If you’re feeling adventurous, try a luge shot poured down a mini ice sculpture.

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MORE WINTER AND SKATING TIPS:

Carrot Creek is Banff’s secret skating spot

Norquay tubing is the most fun you’ll have this winter

6 Things to do in Lake Louise this winter

Where to eat in Lake Louise

Amazing ice castles around the world

Where are your favourite spots for outdoor skating?